Dispelling Sleep Myths: 5 misguided forms of sleep advice, and the facts behind the fiction


Dispelling Sleep Myths: 5 misguided forms of sleep advice, and the facts behind the fiction


I’ll say it: What we believe to be true about babies’ and toddlers’ sleep, and the real
deal, are often very (very!) different. From your mother-in-law’s advice about how she
managed sleep forty years ago, to the overwhelming mass of info available online,
we’re bombarded with (often contradictory) help about kids’ sleep. This creates
confusion about what your child’s sleep patterns mean, and how to manage them.
Here are five misconceptions about children’s sleep, and the real deal about the rest
your baby or toddler needs:
1. A later bedtime will make your child sleep in: In general, this is untrue!
Research shows that children who go to bed well-rested – i.e. before they
become overtired and overstimulated – have fewer night wakings, and sleep
later in the morning. It may sound counterintuitive at first read, but it makes
absolute sense when you think about it. Consider how much you toss and turn
if you’ve had an overly busy day and gone to bed too late! An early bedtime = a
better night’s rest.
2. If your child doesn’t fall asleep easily at bedtime, it’s because he’s not
tired enough: This is rarely the case. Unfortunately, many parents mistake
their child’s overtired cues for signs that they are not tired enough. So, they
decide to put them to bed even later, thinking they will fall asleep more quickly.
If you’ve ever tried this, you can probably attest to the fact that it rarely works,
and probably resulted in more difficult bedtimes (and maybe even earlier
mornings!). This is because a child will fall asleep more quickly and easily
when put to bed early, but will appear very stimulated and “wired” if put to bed
too late and already overtired.

3. Children will get as much sleep as they need: For newborns, this is often
the case, but your older baby may throw you a curve ball! Newborns will, in the
first 2 to 3 months, often sleep anywhere and everywhere. However, at around
the 14 to 16-week mark, many babies have developed dependencies on
various sleep accessories or “props” (soothers, feeding to sleep, rocking, etc.),
and will suddenly be unable to fall asleep without the assistance of something.
In this case, a sleep association is now in place. Your child may no longer get
all the sleep they need if the prop isn’t in place every time. They’re up multiple
times a night and taking short naps because, when waking in light stages of
sleep, they’re looking for their prop to help them drift back to sleep.
4. Cutting naps will result in better nighttime sleep:  Noooooo! Dropping naps
too soon is detrimental to your child’s nighttime sleep. If you’re like many
parents who’ve been trolling the internet, desperate for sleep help, you know
this is because sleep begets sleep (see #1 and #2!). The better rested your
baby is, the better she will sleep at night. In rare cases, and only once your
child is of an appropriate age (3 to 4 years old), cutting a daytime nap may help
solve nighttime issues. However, this is generally only the case for
preschoolers who have been great sleepers otherwise, and who suddenly
develop ongoing nighttime sleep issues. Then and only then, the solution may
be to cut their daytime nap. Otherwise, it is likely an issue of a new milestone
or another developmental situation. It will pass, and if you continue her
restorative daytime sleeps, you’ll see your child return to great sleeps at night.
5. Children “outgrow” all sleep difficulties: A mom recently informed me of a
method of sleep coaching called “wait it out.” The method is self-explanatory:
you simply wait out sleepless nights and napless days, as long as it takes (be it
two, three, four, or eight years), and eventually, your child’s sleep will improve.
I see two fundamental issues with this: One, even if it were true in all cases, it
means that neither your child nor you are getting proper sleep that whole time
you’re waiting; and two, most sleep difficulties require behavioural changes on

the part of the parent or the child (or both) to be resolved. While issues like
bed-wetting may resolve themselves over time, issues like sleep dependencies
(i.e., being unable to fall asleep or return to sleep without props or interventions
by a parent) often require some kind of behavioural change before they

I am Khudeja Williams, a Paediatric Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant and owner of Sweet Dreams
Sleep Consulting. I work closely with parents to help them help their little ones get the healthy,
restful sleep they need. Follow Sweet Dreams Sleep Consulting on Instagram and Facebook. Let’s
get your family the healthy, happy sleep you all deserve!
The advice provided by Sweet Dreams Sleep Consulting is not a substitute for medical advice. The
advice on this website is provided solely for informational purposes. Always seek the advice of your
doctor or another qualified health practitioner with questions regarding medical conditions or the
health or welfare of your child.

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